I tried couponing around 10 years ago, but I gave it up because I just couldn’t get the hang of it, and it seemed to be taking too much time relative to the amount of money I was saving. When I picked it back up five years later, everything seemed to click. It still took some time to figure out the process, and I made a lot of mistakes as I was learning the ropes. Couponing takes time, experience, and patience to master, but it’s well worth the effort. I want to share some mistakes that I have made in my couponing journey so that you might learn from me and avoid these blunders.
1. I started too big. In my book, I told about my first couponing experience at CVS. I started way too big and didn’t take the time to understand the process. I ended up spending too much money out of pocket and made it a difficult evening for the cashier, gracious though she was. With a fairly complicated rewards system such as CVS, it really is wise to start small and take time to understand how everything works.
My suggestion is to start with one drug store and one grocery store. Get to know their rewards programs well and how to coupon in those stores before expanding to other stores. Each store has a different coupon policy, so I encourage you to make a copy of each policy and familiarize yourself with it. You might even find it helpful to keep the policy in your purse in case you need to refer to it or show a cashier what it says.
2. I bought things just because my coupons were about to expire. It takes some time to figure out which coupons are available regularly and which ones are rare. When I started out, I thought that I had to use all of my coupons that were about to expire, only to find out that those coupons are available almost all of the time. I bought more products than we needed and spent more on them than I should have.
3. I bought things we didn’t use. Just because something is a good deal isn’t a reason to buy it if your family won’t use it. Now, some things are worth buying if they’re free after coupons and can be donated to a ministry, but remember that you’re still paying tax even on free items, which can add up if you do it often enough.
I will mention that since I started couponing, I have bought many, many products that I had never bought before and probably never would’ve bought because I couldn’t afford to try them. Those same products were now affordable when the right deals and coupons came along. Some things we have liked and have bought again; others we found not to our liking. But one of the fun things about couponing is that it’s easy to afford to try new products to see if they suit your family.
4. I inadvertently annoyed some cashiers, even though I have always tried to be very polite. This is along the lines of #1, when I started too big and didn’t know what I was doing. If you make things too complicated for the cashiers, they might dread to see you coming. It’s important to develop good relationships with the cashiers and managers at the stores you plan to frequent in your couponing. If you start too big and rub the cashiers the wrong way right off the bat, it can be uncomfortable for you for a long time.
Granted, some cashiers don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to couponing, so you’ll need to figure out which ones to avoid. I always survey the cashiers when I go into a store so I can go through the line of a coupon-friendly one. I avoid some cashiers like the plague because I’ve had bad experiences in their line in the past.
5. I spent too much money. Instead of taking several months to build my stockpile, I bought too much too soon and spent more money than I should have. If I had taken time to learn the ropes slowly, I would’ve saved our family much more money in the long run.
6. I spent too much time. When I first started couponing, I was so excited about all of the deals that I even had trouble sleeping. I tend to jump into new things with both feet, and this was no different. It takes a lot of time to learn the ropes anyway, and I was so excited about it that I devoted too much time and energy early on.
7. I tried to get all of the deals out there. I remember my husband telling me more than once when I wanted to go out to catch a deal that I just couldn’t get everything that came along. If you want to know the truth, I was spending way too much money in gas by running all over “saving money” couponing. Now I try to combine trips if I can, and I let a lot of deals go because it wouldn’t be worth the gas to make a special trip out.
8. I followed too many deal sites. It’s important to find one or two good couponing sites and stick with those. You might miss out on a deal occasionally, but that’s better than getting overwhelmed by all of the information that’s out there.
I hope these pointers will help you to avoid some of the mistakes that I made early in my couponing journey. Couponing can be a really fun hobby and can save your family thousands of dollars, and starting slowly can help you to enjoy it while learning the ropes.
What couponing mistakes have you made? Leave a comment below to share your experiences with us!